Oklahoma State: In-person classes are 'top priority' in Stillwater this fall
STILLWATER — Most classes at Oklahoma State University's Stillwater campus are expected to take place in person this fall as the university progresses out of a hybrid approach to instruction.
OSU announced Thursday it anticipates COVID-19 conditions to improve in the coming months with widespread vaccinations and continued hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing.
“While pleased we have online as an option, our top priority is to safely return to in-person classes and labs this coming fall,” Vice Provost Jeanette Mendez said in the announcement.
OSU is in the second week of its spring semester. As with the first half of the school year, classes are using a mix of online and face-to-face formats, although the university has begun to encourage more in-person instruction. The decision to teach in person or virtually is left up to each professor.
Classes will shift more significantly at the main campus toward traditional formats at the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year.
COVID-19 precautions, such as mask mandates, could remain in place depending on guidance from health officials, an OSU spokesperson said. Virtual components might stick around, as well, but they won’t be the focus in the fall.
The University of Oklahoma will host in-person classes this fall "with necessary safety precautions in place," a spokesperson told The Oklahoman.
Most, if not all, colleges and universities in Oklahoma spent the final months of the 2019-20 school year in virtual learning as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. They began to reintroduce face-to-face instruction in August.
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Each school chose how to proceed independently, though the state’s two largest higher education institutions, OU and OSU, often mirrored each other. College athletics have continued at OSU and OU with spectators through the fall and spring.
Oklahoma City Community College decided in November most of its classes would remain online in the spring after an “overwhelming” majority of 3,000 students, faculty and staff said they preferred virtual instruction during the pandemic.
The University of Central Oklahoma is spending the first three weeks of the spring semester, which started Jan. 19, in remote learning.
OU, OSU and UCO extended winter break by an extra week to eliminate spring break from their calendars. All three universities spent the final two weeks of the fall semester in virtual learning, following the week of Thanksgiving.
Vaccinations of university students, staff and administrators won’t begin until Phase 3 of the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s distribution plan. Adults in childcare centers, vocational technology centers and other post-secondary institutions also belong to the same Phase 3 category.
Oklahoma is still in the first half of Phase 2. Vaccinations are open to healthcare workers, first responders and Oklahomans age 65 and older.
Next in line are K-12 teachers, employees and residents of congregate locations, public health staff, and government leaders. Some elected officials and educators have already been vaccinated.
Oklahoma’s federal allocation of the vaccine is revealed week to week, but state health officials estimate about 30,000-40,000 vaccines are administered in the state weekly. It remains unclear when those in the latter half of Phase 2 and Phase 3 will be vaccinated.